Karen: The pain never goes away

IPSWICH: Seventeen years ago tomorrow, Ipswich was left shocked and repulsed by the murder of Karen Hales, a young mother who was stabbed to death at her Lavenham Road home.

Miss Hales, 21, was with her 19-month-old daughter, Emily, when she was killed and an attempt made to set her body alight.

Despite a large-scale manhunt and a series of high-profile public appeals Miss Hales’ killer has never been brought to justice.

Today, Emily, now 18, along with Miss Hales’ mother Geraldine, father Graham, both of Barham, near Claydon, and her two sisters Angie and Jacqui, gave a moving insight into a grief that never subsides.

They have published a series of letters in the hope that the power of their words and the depth of their pain will provoke someone to come forward with information about the identity of the murderer.

Miss Hales was killed some time between 3.50pm and 4.40pm on Sunday, November 21, 1993.

Her fiance Peter Ruffles had left the couple’s home at 3.50pm to go to work.

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Miss Hales’ body was discovered by her father at 4.40pm.

Two Laser 7 knives were said to be missing from her home after her death.

Two men were arrested during the murder inquiry on different days in January 1994, but no one was ever charged.

Five years ago, The Evening Star and local businessmen put up a �50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the murderer.

A senior detective on the joint Norfolk and Suffolk major investigation team said Miss Hales’ murder is still very much on the minds of officers who worked in Ipswich at the time.

Detective Chief Inspector John Brocklebank also pledged not to give up the hunt to find her killer.

He said: “We will not stop looking for the person who killed Karen.

“We review all cold cases every six months. It is important to stress we do that on a permanent basis.

“What we are looking for are developments in terms of forensic opportunities or new information that has come to us which could point us in a direction to help with our inquiries.”

If you have any information which could help bring Karen’s killer to justice telephone Suffolk Constabulary on 0800 555111 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

Emily, Karen’s daughter, who works in Ipswich as a hair stylist, said: “I feel very disillusioned that 17 years have now gone by.

“I have spent most of my life without my mother. Most people would not, and can not, understand how this feels.

“Mother’s Day is especially hard for me. In my employment, I have customers come in and ask me what I have bought my mum. How can I answer that?

“I know for a fact someone knows something. How they can sleep at night knowing that, I do not understand.

“My grandparents have also lost a daughter, their youngest. They mention my mum on a daily basis, but to me she is a stranger,

“How do you think that makes me feel? I have never known my own mother.

“I have to cope with the anniversary of her murder and her birthday.

“I have not ever been able to give my own mother a birthday or Christmas card, that is so hard.

“I feel I have had the most important thing in my life taken away, year after year.

“I just want to know when will my family and I get the answers we need and deserve?

“I will be making the journey to the church to place another wreath on my mother’s grave.

“I wish just for a short time I could have known what she was like, or remember her face.

“All I remember are the pictures I have left, and the memories which my grandparents tell me.

“For me, that is just not enough.”

n Angie, 46, Karen’s eldest sister said: “The impact on life after losing anybody is hard, but the devastation after the murder of a loved one (my younger sister) was too hard to comprehend.

“A few people said how I felt would get easier – time is a great healer they would say. I didn’t think I would ever heal. My heart had been broken and I cried until I ran out of tears.

“Whatever I felt, my mum and dad were to feel even worse.

“I needed to be as strong as possible for them because, as I found out, families don’t always stick together.

“We have gone through every emotion, apart from relief that the person who murdered Karen is not behind bars serving a long sentence for taking her away from us.

“But I’m comforted that Karen’s little girl has become a lovely young woman, just like her mum was.”

n Karen’s 65-year-old mother, Geraldine, said: “It has been 17 years of absolute hell for me and my family, still not knowing the reason why, and who, did this to our beautiful daughter Karen.

“She is on my mind every day and I will never forget the short time I spent with her.

“I personally have felt ill since the day my daughter was taken away from us.

“It has destroyed the family in many ways. I feel that I have a lack of confidence since this has happened.

“I’m begging you all out there if you know anything, please contact the police because I am positive in my mind that someone is hiding the information that we all need.

“Graham and I desperately want some answers before it’s too late, or we would have lived the rest of our lives without knowing why it happened.”

n Graham, Karen’s 64-year-old father, said: “I still miss Karen and always will. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of Karen.

“I’m disappointed with the police. I can’t understand why they have not caught anybody. I am very emotional at this time of year and at Christmas.

“We were just looking at photos of Karen and I became very emotional.

“I would like to think someone will come forward one day, and hope the sooner the better.”

n Karen’s sister, Jacqui, 44, said: “At this time of the year, the majority of families are looking forward to the festive activities associated with Christmas and the New Year. As for my family, it is a sad period of uncertainty and torment.

“On November 21, 1993, my lovely, bubbly sister Karen was tragically taken from our lives leaving a beautiful daughter without a mum. “My parents and sister Angela have never come to terms with this loss. We understand the police are doing all they can to find the person responsible for our sad loss.

“However, we understand this will never bring Karen back to us, but it would certainly help us all as a family to achieve a final closure on these dreadful memories. I just pray that one day someone will take the time to think of the sorrow and pain this has caused us and maybe talk.”

n Do you have a message of support for the family? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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